State lawmakers passed a bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law last month, allowing guns to be carried in churches, schools and government buildings. Opponents coined the legislation the “guns everywhere” bill, and the law passed in the Republican-dominated General Assembly despite objections from some religious leaders and local government officials.
Another bill allowing students to carry weapons on public campuses, termed campus carry, was ultimately dropped. Some state lawmakers and candidates for state office say they want to bring that bill back next year.
South Cobb, District 39
Monica DeLancy, a Democratic candidate for the District 39 seat being vacated by state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), said she is undecided on the question of campus carry.
“In light of the recent tragic incidents that have affected our schools nationally and locally, I am in support of legislation that will increase safety measures,” said DeLancy, who works as the Six Flags Drive community liaison and lives in Austell. “However, I feel that legislation in this matter, without education, could threaten the safety of many. While permitting guns on college campuses could save lives in the event of an emergency, proper measures need to be in place to teach and train gun carriers about acceptable and non-acceptable gun usage. College campuses will have to bear the burden and costs of ensuring that individuals electing to carry guns are properly educated to avoid even more acts of senseless violence. Enacting a law permitting guns on college campuses without pre-emptive measures to ensure safety and proper usage could prove detrimental in the long run.”
Erica Thomas, a Democrat from south Cobb running for the same seat, said guns should not be allowed on college campuses.
“There was a time when we put our trust and confidence in a highly trained police force to keep us safe, and despite what you think of the cops, I’d rather stand next to a police officer with his or her gun drawn than a college freshman,” Thomas said. “I mean, I went to a fairly preppy, small college in Alabama where the student body was fairly homogeneous and people got into fights, and, yes, people got scared and hurt, but it most likely ended with a badly bruised ego.”
Imagine the same situation where only one student has a gun, she said. What is to stop them from using it.
“Or what stops someone in the crowd from pulling a gun out? Or what stops someone walking by from pulling a gun out? Or let’s say one of the kids has a gun and pulls it out and someone else sees it and tries to be a hero and starts shooting?” she said. “There are hundreds of totally possible situations which result in an untrained person pointing a firearm at a student. Students need to focus on their academics.”
Candidate Branson Wright did not respond to messages from the MDJ by press time.
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) and his challenger, Connie Taylor of Powder Springs, a grants compliance director for the city of Atlanta, both oppose the notion of campus carry.
“While I respect the Second Amendment, I do not support the ‘guns everywhere’ legislation that passed,” Wilkerson said. “I believe schools, college campuses and churches should be off limits.”
Taylor, who is also a Democrat, said she supports the constitutional right to own weapons, but said several negative implications would follow if guns are allowed on college campuses, including putting law enforcement officers at greater risk and increasing the number of bystanders who could be hurt or killed from gunfire.
“I am a supporter of the Second Amendment and believe that individuals have the right to protect themselves and their families; however, I do not support permissible carry of guns on university and college campuses. Parents expect their children to be safe and obtain an education. Guns everywhere does not ensure safety on college campuses,” Taylor said, adding some college presidents have publicly opposed allowing guns on campus. “Alcohol, drugs and guns are a dangerous mix that predictably put more personnel and students at risk and increase lethal violence on campuses.”
State Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) supports a law change to allow for guns on college campuses.
“Yes I support ‘campus carry.’ It would restore private property rights to the owners of private colleges to set their own policies — just like we do in our own homes and businesses,” Gregory said. “And in the case of public institutions, the state should be in the business of protecting individual rights, not infringing on them.”
Republican challenger Bert Reeves, a Marietta attorney, is undecided.
“I support allowing colleges to set their own policies that work best for their faculty and students, so long as they do not violate state laws or our constitutional rights. This is a critical issue for the 34th District because it holds one of the largest college campuses in the state, (Kennesaw State University),” Reeves said.
“If this issue comes up again, I will work closely with the citizens of the district and officials at KSU to determine what is best for District 34. I will never support legislation that infringes on the rights of our citizens. If the law provides the option for ‘campus carry’ and KSU allows it, then I will absolutely support KSU’s decision.”
State Rep. Don Parsons (R-north central Cobb) says he voted to allow guns on college campuses.
“Yes, I support the Second Amendment,” Parsons said. “The General Assembly passed legislation this year to protect the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Georgians. Primarily, the new law relates to where citizens who have licenses to carry are allowed with their firearms,” Parsons said.
“The Georgia House passed legislation in the 2013 session that allowed those with permits to carry on campus, but it did not move through the Senate. I voted for the legislation to allow those 21 and older with licenses to exercise their Second Amendment rights on campus and to be able to protect themselves and fellow students against violent criminals.”
Parsons’ opponent, Steven Fellows, a Republican business owner from Kennesaw, also supports campus carry.
“We should not strip rights away from citizens simply based on their geographic location. As we have seen from recent tragedies, those that wish to do harm to others do not follow the law regarding gun free zones. Law abiding citizens should have the right to protect themselves from those that would harm them,” Fellows said. “Our Second Amendment applies to everyone, and I am in favor of constitutional carry.”
But don’t just stop at allowing campus carry, he said.
“We also should eliminate the process of fingerprinting and cataloging individuals that wish to carry in Georgia. These measures are unconstitutional.”